"I want players to know and understand that it is the most vicious word in the language. It's about us, as a race of African-American people, have to continually make our youngsters understand that the word can't be endearing. The word was created to make you feel, as a black man, that you were inferior; that you were nothing; that you were sub-human; that you had no talents; that all you could do is pick cotton. This is what the word was intended for."
- John Wooten, a former NFL lineman and the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation
On February 25, ESPN reported in "NFL to penalize use of racial slur," that John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, expected the National Football League (NFL) to ban the use of the "N-word" on the field and penalize teams 15 yards for players' use of the word. In the past, Wooten has encouraged players to refrain from using the N-word on the field, and hopes that the NFL's competition committee will officially ban the word at its owners' meeting this month.
Players and commentators have not remained quiet in the ensuing week. Responses have ranged from support of the NFL's proposed ban, to a doubt in the ability to enforce the rule, to extreme opposition. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told ESPN that "It's an atrocious idea...It's almost racist to me. It's weird they're targeting one specific word. Why wouldn't all curse words be banned then?" Similarly, Jason McCourty, cornerback for the Tennessee Titans, commented that "It's a common word in so many players' everyday lives...Among African-American players and people, it's used among friends all the time. It seems like a bit much for the NFL to try to get rid of it. It's a pretty common word in the locker room." More of the conversation and debate around the proposed ban can be found at ESPN.com and in "Sherman disagrees with idea of ban."
The debate over the "N-word" particularly resonates with staff at the Stowe Center because Stowe herself used the word in Uncle Tom's Cabin, as it would have been a natural part of some of her characters' vocabulary. But for many, nothing can take the strong out of the use and hearing of the word, nor should it. We often hear from readers who have mixed reactions, or teachers who are not sure how they should approach the text and book, but we hope that Uncle Tom's Cabin will engender a respect for why the word and slur should not be directed toward people today.
The Stowe Center and this blog are safe places to talk about difficult issues. So, we ask you: Do you think the NFL should ban the use of the "N-word"? We hope you will share your views and opinions in the Comments section below.